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Solana: Camino Album Review

April 21, 2017

Solana are a polyrhymic folk-rock group with Klezmer, Jazz, Folk, Latin and Reggae influences. Their members are Tamsin Elliott (Flute, whistles, accordion), Rowen Elliott (Fiddle, mandolin), Alex Dickinson (Spanish guitar), Henry Edmonds (Bass), and Elio Arauz de Marcos (Drums, percussion, vocals.) The album also features Lucas Arauz de Marcos, Gummo Clare, and Fran Acamer Mateu. The five piece group bring together their own music tastes to create a really interesting mix of genres in their new album Camino. It is essentially a mix of traditional music from all around the world - the song "Gnomad" especially highlights this, not just with its title, but with its eclectic mix of traditional sounds. It’s a celebration of the coming together of cultures. Each song is a mixture of at least one cultural tradition. They originally formed in Valencia in 2012 and have come a long way since then, collaborating with more people and developing new sounds.

With a gorgeous opening song, "Once", Solana set the style of their new album. With a beautiful blend of piano and violin, the song harkens to both jazz and folk sounds, seamlessly weaving the melody between the two. "Saracen" brings in Irish folk sounds to the album with the celtic flutes, though with a jazzy background and some almost Indian sounding flute melodies the song perfectly displays the band’s cultural mix of sounds. In comes the accordion in "Xiki Xiki" (what a great song name!); an experimental jazz sound blended with some african drumming. "Get Out of My Way" has clear latin influences and is the first song to feature vocals. "Cheap Nougat" has the sounds of European gypsy folk, easy listening that transcends to a lively dance track. The last track on the album is distinctly different with a unique opening - it makes me feel like i’m in an upmarket cocktail bar, with cool, smooth jazz and reggae sounds.

 

The album itself is a really lovely design, with beautiful artwork (all artwork and graphic design by Tamsin Elliott). However, the information leaflet inside leaves a lot to question - with rather cryptic song explanations. Each of the songs descriptions are translated into Catalan. The song description for "Gnomad"’ is only in Catalan, and roughly translates to a poetic sounding lyric discussing the nature of a nomad. While this is a rather intriguing and unique way of introducing a song, it seems a bit out of place when other songs have straightforward explanations in English.

 

As a concept, the album is wonderful; bringing together a wonderful mix of cultural traditions, from Latin sounds to reggae, cleverly merged into a distinctive sound. Solana have a talent for tight rhythm. Although the album explores a variety of music genres and cultures, it focuses mostly on jazz sounds. As a result, a lot of the songs sound quite similar. While the song explanations could be clearer, the album artwork really highlights their style, as if their songs directly influenced the album design. The blending of traditional musical cultures from around the world seems to be a spreading fashion in today’s experimental jazz and folk genres (consider the growing popularity of gypsy funk band Gogol Bordello) and Solana will be able to say they were there at the beginning.

 

7/10

 

The band still have a tonne of tour dates. Do not miss these guys at a show!

 

 

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